Sutherland Changing Faces campaigner speaks out to mark Face Equality Week
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A BRORA woman who has a facial birth mark has marked Face Equality Week by speaking out about the hurtful and thoughtless remarks made to her.
Shannon Macdonald-McLeod (29), a volunteer campaigner with charity Changing Faces, is keen to educate people on the “right way” to ask about the port wine stain which covers three-quarters of the left side of her face.
Shannon said she has always been used to “stares and comments”, but the pandemic made the situation worse because wearing a mask highlighted the area around her eye.
She was asked on three occasions if she had been in a fight or an accident - even the nurse who gave her a Covid jab made a comment.
She said: "I have been asked numerous times what I have on my face but I have never once been asked (until lockdown) if I had been in a fight or an accident.
“Wearing masks has helped so many people with visible differences to be able to feel more accepted.
“Unfortunately for me it made me feel worse. We are all inquisitive and want to know but remember there is a right way to ask.
"Please never assume that you know what something is, always ask. Education is key.”
Her birthmark did not affect Shannon until she started high school.
“Then I noticed people staring and some comments being made,” she said. “I really did start to hate how I looked. I went from being such an outgoing, confident child to being in a shell that I couldn’t see a way out of. I had zero confidence.
“At the age of 18, I was told that laser treatment was no longer working for me. For four years I battled with that in my head. when I was 22 I gave myself a good talking to and realised that if I didn’t accept that and learn to love my birthmark, then I was going to be forever upset and angry.
“It hasn’t been an easy journey. I still have my bad days, but those days push me even more to help others.”
She paid tribute to her family for their support and particularly her mother, who she said always fought for her right to be accepted and not be defined by her looks.
She added that joining Changing Faces, which supports people in the UK with a scar, mark or condition on their face or body that makes them look different, had helped her.
“I’m speaking out so more people understand that words and stares really do have an impact,” she continued. “But also to let others with a visible difference know that support is available.”
An annual event, Face Equality Week began on Monday and ends on Friday.